Hunting for color
Nature is self-sufficient in its beauty, and its beauty shines whether anyone looks at it or not. Most people never see really beautiful flowers in their daily lives because they simply don’t try to see them. They are too lazy to raise their heads. They sleep or eat while the sky glows with color at dawn or sunset. They spend all day in a stuffy room, earning themselves myopia, scoliosis and hemorrhoids, and when they see unusual colors for them in photos, they tend to explain them by manipulating Photoshop.
Fantastic colors don’t happen often. It is naive to hope to catch them if you are on the street for a couple of hours a day, and even not at the most photogenic time.
Sunlight passing through the atmosphere, it is partially dissipated. First of all, rays with a short wavelength are scattered, painting the sky blue and turning it into an additional source of illumination. As a result, we usually deal with two types of light: direct warm light from the sun and diffused cold light from the sky. The side of the object facing the sun is illuminated by direct light, while the shadow side is illuminated by diffused light. During the day, the brightness of sunlight is so high compared to the brightness of the sky that the lights in the photo are faded and whitish, and the shadows are black and lifeless.
In order for the colors to become saturated, the light from the sun and from the sky must be balanced, i.e. it is as different in tone as possible, but at the same time it is close in intensity. This is only possible when the sun is low above the horizon. The lower the sun, the thicker the layer of air through which its rays must pass, which means that more rays are scattered in the atmosphere. Thus, direct sunlight becomes less intense (since most of the rays are scattered on the way to the Earth) and warmer (since the earth reaches mainly red, long-wave rays). Before sunset, when warm direct and cold diffused light complement and set off each other, the contrast of the scene softens and the color saturation increases. Illuminated by the last rays of the sun, objects are colored in Golden-red tones, and cold, bluish shadows emphasize the texture and relief.
The peak color lasts for a few minutes, if not seconds, and falls at a time close to sunrise or sunset. Often you will be disappointed, but patience and perseverance are always rewarded. It is almost impossible to predict when the climax will occur, and therefore it is necessary to be on the spot in advance, at least half an hour before sunset, and stay there for at least half an hour after the sun disappears behind the horizon. Take a series of pictures so that you can then choose the best one-the good pixels are free.
Sunsets are more comfortable to shoot than sunrises, because you don’t need to get up before dawn, get to your destination in the dark, and snap your teeth against the morning cold while fiddling with equipment. However, sunrises can be just as beautiful and sometimes more photogenic than sunsets. And in any case, there are far fewer photographers who are too lazy to get up after dark, than those who like to lie in bed until dinner.
Do not forget about the operating time. Twilight, when the sky has not yet had time to go out, and the artificial lights are just starting to light up, gives you the opportunity to capture the magnificent, unprecedented colors of urban landscapes. A low level of light contrast allows you to achieve color contrast. Black shadows and whitish, embossed lights have no color. High-contrast images are almost achromatic. For the colors to be rich, the light should not be too sharp.
I don’t want to say that contrast is something bad. On the contrary, contrast photos look lively and realistic, but areas of the image that have an intense and significant color for this scene should not contain pronounced brightness modulations. For example, the overall contrast of many sunset landscapes is very high, to the point that the foreground objects turn into black silhouettes (if the exposure is exposed to the sky), but the local contrast of the sunset sky itself is relatively low, it does not contain either black or white, and therefore the variety and saturation of color shades are completely preserved.
It is obvious that the color saturation seems to be maximum at a moderate brightness, and overexposure kills the color faster and more radically than underexposure.
Be careful with the exposure. Automatics often make mistakes in complex lighting, and overexposure in digital photography is unacceptable, since it kills both color and texture, but it is not always possible to pull out the illuminated areas of the image without losing quality. A small amount of underexposure for images with very bright colors is usually acceptable.
Color creates a mood
The color scheme of an image strongly affects the viewer’s perception of it. It is known that colors can be divided into warm (red, yellow, orange) and cold (blue, purple, green). This division is quite conditional, since there are many border shades. The yellowish-green color of the young foliage, through which the rays of the sun Shine, is definitely warm. The greenish-yellow color of a lemon is perceived as colder. Purple and blue at sunset can create a feeling of both cold and warmth, depending on the situation. And the psychological stereotypes of color perception in different people are different – for some, frost is a red nose, and for some-blue.
Nevertheless, General patterns can be traced. Bright red, yellow, orange colors are invigorating, create excitement, and sometimes nervousness; dark red, Burgundy, brown, dark green are calm and even heavy somewhere; beige, blue, various pastel shades carry a sense of lightness and serenity; deep blue, purple, blue-green breathe cold, peace and, used skillfully, can act on a person in both a calming and depressing way.
Color is as important an element of the composition as line, shape, texture, volume, and so on.Rich, bright colors will first attract the viewer’s eye. Use this to focus on the key elements of the image. On the contrary, avoid bright color spots on the periphery of the frame, as they will disrupt the harmony and lead the eye away from the semantic center.
Objects of warm colors seem to be located closer than they actually are, and attract attention to a greater extent than objects of cold colors. Color contrast can be as dramatic as tonal contrast. Bright yellow autumn foliage against a dark blue sky makes the image almost three-dimensional.
Contrasting colors lying on opposite sides of the color circle create tension, increase the drama and dynamics of the composition. Close to each other colors, a single color scheme give a sense of calm, balance.
It is not always necessary to strive for a variety of colors – excessive diversity tires the eye. Often the most harmonious images contain one or two dominant colors, while additional, brighter colors are included in the overall picture only in the form of small spots that serve as reference points for the view. Simplicity is the power of composition.
Black and white photography
Color and black-and-white photography are two completely different ways of capturing the surrounding reality. None of them can be considered more perfect or primitive than the other. They reflect the world in different ways and require the photographer to have a fundamentally different vision of the world.
The fact that your camera shoots in color by default does not save you from having to think about color. The color must be meaningful and justified. If the color is not important for the image, then it may be worth getting rid of it. Ask yourself: will color improve a photo? If not, it will make it worse.
Black and white photography
However, I must warn you against the other extreme. You should not mindlessly convert all images to b / W, in the hope that this will make them more soulful and elitist. If your images don’t seem “creative” enough, then creative processing won’t help them. And if you use b/W to mask the defects in the lighting or white balance errors, then it would be wiser to deal with the improvement of photos and the photographer.
In color, it is easier to get a nice photo, but it is much more difficult to get a stunning photo, because we are used to the color world, and it takes something really unusual to surprise us. Black-and-white photography is more abstract, it allows for more daring manipulations, both when shooting and when processing, but requires high skill in composition, as well as the ability to see and use tonal relationships.
Personally, I prefer color photography. However, for some subjects, such as cloudy winter landscapes, the achromatic palette is more than appropriate. Such images look stronger and, I would even say, more monumental when the color is discarded as an insignificant and distracting factor.
A rare scene looks equally good in color and in b/W, but there are also such cases. To have freedom of choice, I recommend always shooting in color, and then, if you need a monochrome image, use a graphic editor to convert it to b/W.